Welcome Edward Renehan (EdRenehan.com) (Twitter) and Host John McCutcheon (FolkMusic.com) (Twitter)

Pete Seeger vs. The Un-Americans: A Tale of the Blacklist

From the book’s website, New Street Communications:

When Pete Seeger died at age 94 this past January, widespread media coverage included discussion of his trials and tribulations during the McCarthy era when he, like so many other entertainers and artists, was persecuted, subjected to gross indignities, and ultimately prosecuted for Contempt of Congress during the myriad anti-Communist witch hunts of that time. Pete Seeger vs. the Un-Americans: A Tale of the Blacklist reveals never before known aspects of Seeger’s experience during those deark days, including the backstory to his prosecution for Contempt (orchestrated by, of all people, Robert Kennedy).

In refusing to answer questions posed by the House Select Committee on Un-American Activities (1955), and at the same time refusing to take the Fifth Amendment, Seeger consciously put himself in harm’s way of prosecution for Contempt – a brave act also embarked upon by such notables as playwright Arthur Miller, economist Otto Nathan, and the Hollywood Ten. Seeger’s eventual 1961 prosecution resulted in guilty verdicts on ten counts, and a one year prison sentence – a finding overturned on a technicality in the Court of Appeals one year later. Summed up, the threat of prison hung over Seeger’s head for a good seven years, from 1955 to 1962.

Good evening. My name is John McCutcheon and I’m the host of today’s Book Salon here at Firedoglake. I was a protégé  of Pete Seeger for over 40 years, and like the author of today’s book, Ed Renehan, a friend of both Pete & his amazing wife, Toshi. Ed’s book, Pete Seeger vs. the Un-Americans, explores Seeger’s interaction with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC for short), colloquially known as the McCarthy Hearings, after Senator Joe McCarthy, who presided over the Committee for many years. Please feel free to join in the discussion. Let’s keep your questions/comments concise and to the point. That’ll give everyone a chance to participate. Y’all play nice, now!

Let’s start out with a question for Ed…

One of the interesting things in your book is the brief history of the Committee itself…an unlikely story, to be sure. If the two primary characters of the book are Seeger and HUAC, let’s start off with a little background on each. Ed, HUAC first.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]